What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)
My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor and proofreader, and occasional indexer. This blog is my website.
You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.
Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for visiting. Leave me a comment. Come back often.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Becoming a freelance editor; becoming a freelance proofreader; becoming a freelance indexer, Part 2 -- Building a clientele
Getting starting in freelancing can be hard. Being a full-time productive freelancer -- that is, where you are no longer marketing yourself to new clients -- can take an awfully long time.
When I am speaking to college students about freelancing, I say, "If you want to be a full-time freelance editor/proofreader by the time you are forty, set a goal of having two good clients by the time you are twenty-five." I have no real data on which to base these numbers, but they felt right the first time I said them, and I haven't felt it necessary to change my tune.
Looking at my client list, I can say that exactly two of the companies on that list were developed as a result of cold calling -- where I identified the company, let them know of my services, and they took the bait. The remainder came to me either by referral or word of mouth.
By referral, I am referring mostly to two people.
One lives in Atlanta and does what I do, and I came to know per because the company I worked for while I was writing textbooks would hire per for copyediting. When I wanted to begin freelancing in that area, I let per know. Per -- as far as I know -- does not freelance full-time, which is to say that while per is busy, per doesn't run the kind of operation where per takes on 10 or 12 books a month. But per has a great reputation and a great client list, and whenever per gets a call and doesn't want to take on any more work, per sends them my way. Per began doing so in 1990 or so and continues to do it to this day. Praise A.S. from whom many blessings flow.
The other person is an editor and a typesetter who was editing and translating major works of theology about the time I was getting bar mitzvahed. About 7 or 8 years ago, we worked on different ends of a project. Per liked my work and made me a deal. Per wanted to do more typesetting and get away from editing, so if I could take on a lot of the proofreading, editing, and indexing that was coming per's way, per could package all our services together, present to the company that per'd be a one-stop shop for the production, and concentrate on the typesetting. We don't work together as much as we did a few years ago, but I've been put in front of a lot of companies as a result, and some now come to me independently.
The best thing for a freelancer to do is to stay put, and these days because of email and cellphones (and blogs), that's easier to do. When I say "stay put," I mean keep yourself where someone can find you, even years later. Of course, in the current economy, who knows what's coming down the pike, but in the old days, when people would change jobs, my name might stay with Company A and travel with a mobile managing editor to Company B. Unfortunately that can work the other way, too, where someone new comes into a company where I used to have a good connection, but the new person has per's own list of freelancers, on which I do not appear. There's one company in particular where I fear a particular managing editor ever leaving because of the amount of work per sends my way, and per's next-door neighbor -- the other managing editor -- and I don't get along real well because an email I wrote some years back that was supposed not to be taken seriously was taken way too seriously. End of relationship. It happens. Lesson learned: if you're going to make jokes, maybe it's time to pick up the phone. Per used to send me some work, but sends me zero work now -- except for a pain-in-the-butt index I did last year because the author requested me.
So, get to know a few people, and build on those relationships. Get to know book designers, because they are very good sources of referrals.
And the Land on Demand credos:
Don't ever turn down work and make referrals only for very good reasons, because when you do, you're just opening up the door for your replacement. Having said that, even though A.S. has referred a ton of companies to me, I doubt per's business has suffered. Probably just the opposite. Per's reputation is enhanced because per made a useful referral that worked out well for the publisher. And for the most part, I'll bet we are now just working for some of the same companies. I don't think I've taken any food off per's table. (By the way, among the very good reasons to make referrals are that you would be unable to complete a job in a timely manner, or to help a good, young freelancer get started.)
Meet the deadlines. Always. At least for the first five years with a client. And if you need to miss one after those years, make sure you let them know well in advance and apologize profusely. (Inside information: a lot of times after you return a job to a managing editor, it sits on their desk for a while anyway. They just need to keep production moving and want the job available when it's time to work on it. For the most part, these gigs are not like Japanese Just-in-time production. Missing a deadline often will not put a managing editor in an immediate bind [although if it does, it would most likely be for an index], but the proper thing to do is to keep these folks informed. They are, after all, your source of income.)
Above all, do damn good work. Nothing beats that. I guess I'm doing something OK to have enough repeating clients to stay busy (fingers crossed).
I will work for anybody who does not advocate violence against me or my family directly. I've never really had this challenged, although this one individual who I used to help put out a monthly 8-page publication changed per's tone after some time and would go off on rants on per's website (which per didn't have at the time) about the Jew media. I was no longer working for per at that time, but it's the only situation in which I really would have had to consider continued employment. But for $25 a month, I probably could afford to take a stand. One time, in lieu of cash payment from per, I accepted a T-shirt with a Confederate battle flag on the front and a pointillist drawing of Nathan Bedford Forrest on the back. I don't wear it out of the house too much. Well, actually, never.
Next post: What about those cold calls? How did I identify who I would call, and why did it work?